Every time we turn around, a new definition of educational leadership emerges with standards, benchmarks and, of course, expert research to back it up. It’s getting to be like adding new flavors to Baskin & Robbins 31 ice cream choices and you decide the flavor of the week. You can be an Instructional Leader, an Operational Leader, and/or a Policy Leader. Your leadership behavior can be distributed, shared, transformational, charismatic, situational or balanced. You can be a visionary leader, a democratic leader, a coaching leader or just a plain old mean leader!
I don’t mean to make light of all of the important work that’s been done to identify the knowledge, skills, strategies and tools to be an effective educational leader. These are important skills necessary for all educational leaders. However, to me there is only one leadership attribute that has the greatest impact on what occurs in schools and school districts and the only one that makes the difference between a great leader and a lousy one. Simply put, it’s how the leader treats people and builds and sustains positive relationships between her/himself and others and among staff, students, parents and community members. This is what makes the most significant difference in the climate and culture of a school or district and, ultimately, impacts whether students will achieve or fail.
Clearly, one can be educated about curriculum, instruction, and assessment. One can learn how to use data to make decisions, how to allocate resources, and how to effectively supervise and evaluate staff. The question, however, is this: Is relationship building a skill that can be taught or learned or is it innate? What do you think?
MI-LIFE Michigan Leadership Improvement Framework Endorsement
The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.